A Holistic Healing Arts Model for Counselors, Advocates, and Lawyers Serving Trauma Survivors: Joyful Heart Foundation Retreat

Secondary traumatic stress and vicarious traumatization present a burden that counselors, advocates, and lawyers risk when working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault. While effective trauma interventions provide one option for addressing the effects of secondary traumatic stress, the focus of these treatments is typically on clinical symptom reduction, rather than a broader emphasis on healing the whole person. Unlike modern Western medicine, holistic healing is an
approach that attends to mind, body, and spirit. The primary objective of this study was to pilot test the standardized procedures for delivering the Joyful Heart Foundation (JHF)’s Holistic Healing Arts Retreat and to gather preliminary data on the its effectiveness for improving well-being and supporting resilience.

Results of an open trial of the 4-day JHF Retreat found support for improvements in stress related outcomes (posttraumatic stress symptoms, insomnia, somatic symptoms, perceived stress, depression symptoms, fatigue, general life satisfaction, burnout, secondary traumatic stress) and resilience-related outcomes (self-esteem, self-judgment, self-compassion, nonjudgment, mindful acceptance) over 3 months in a sample of 18 female counselors, advocates, and lawyers who work with trauma survivors.
Study limitations include lack of a control group and small sample size.

Keywords: resilience, well-being, secondary traumatic stress, vicarious traumatization, retreat

Mary Ann Dutton Georgetown University Medical Center

Sherisa Dahlgren, Maria Franco-Rahman, and Monica Martinez Joyful Heart Foundation, New York, New York 

Adriana Serrano Georgetown University Medical Center 

Mihriye Mete MedStar Health Research Institute

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